WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. authorities on Tuesday seized the gambling website Bodog and announced the indictment of four Canadians on charges of illegal sports betting, including founder Calvin Ayre.
The federal grand jury indictment of Bodog Entertainment Group, Ayre, James Philip, David Ferguson and Derrick Maloney was unsealed in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
“Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country,” Rosenstein said. “Many of the harms that underlie gambling prohibitions are exacerbated when the enterprises operate over the Internet without regulation.”
The indictment accuses Bodog and the four Canadians of conducting an illegal online sports gambling business and conspiring to commit money laundering between June 2005 and January 2012.
“The defendants and their conspirators allegedly moved funds from Bodog’s accounts located in Switzerland, England, Malta, Canada and elsewhere to pay winnings to gamblers, and to pay media brokers and advertisers located in the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
“The conspirators directed payment processors to send at least $100 million by wire and by check to gamblers located in Maryland and elsewhere,” it said.
It was not immediately clear whether any of the four indicted Canadians were in U.S. custody.
In an affidavit supporting a seizure warrant for the Bodog.com website domain name, a former employee of Bodog was quoted as saying the gambling operation has hundreds of employees in Canada and Costa Rica.
In a statement on his website, Ayre, who is described by Forbes magazine as a former billionaire, said the Bodog.com domain name has been dormant for some time.
“Not sure what to say,” Ayre said. “BodogBrand.com is a brand-licensing organisation based outside the U.S.
“The brand left the market last year and the domain in question has been dormant globally for longer than that,” Ayre said. “We are only currently doing brand licensing deals outside the U.S. so this domain had no place in any of our current plans.”
In March 2006, Costa Rican authorities raided Ayre’s luxury home in Santa Ana, southwest of San José, on allegations that he was running an illegal poker tournament there. Ayre was filming a reality TV show for Fox Sports at his house at the time and accused Costa Rican authorities of violating his constitutional rights (TT, March 17, 2006).
Ayre appeared on the cover of Forbes Magazine’s annual issue of the world’s richest people the day before the raid in an article entitled: “Catch Me If You Can.”
Ayre, who comes from a family of grain and pig farmers in Canada, founded Bodog in 2000 with $10,000. Originally a software provider, the San José-based company transformed into one of the biggest online gambling sites in the world, processing more than $7 billion in wagers in 2005.
In addition to taking bets on sports, poker and casino games, Bodog Entertainment Group encompassed a record label, a television production unit, real estate, multiple Web sites and online magazine. Most of his customers are from the U.S.
Until now, Ayre had avoided legal trouble in the U.S. because he is not a U.S. citizen, operates his business outside U.S. territory and has no assets in the U.S., according to a 2006 Tico Times story.
A message from the U.S. Justice Department advises visitors to Bodog.com that officials have seized the site. However, online gamblers familiar with Bodog say the site had not been operational since last year, when the site’s licensed operators, the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group (MMGG) moved operations to a new domain name, Bodog.eu.
MMGG then terminated that licensed domain site on Dec. 31, 2011.
MMGG now operates online gambling services at a new domain, Bovada.lv, which is registered in Latvia.